Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Steel-Shod and Nostrils Flaring (Class: Knight-as-Superweapon)

I want to talk about lance charges.

Vaguely medieval lance charge.

In the three point fifth edition of the World's Most Popular Role-Playing Game, that being the one I grew up playing, a level 3ish fighter with a lance and a horse can do about 48 to 20748 to 69 without a critical hit, nice #nice (nice)—damage with a lance charge if you're pretty strong and know what you're doing, for example if you built your character to be Central European Minor Land-Holding Warrior Nobility Orc Cavalry Mulan. In a system where stuff of that level (including you) has 20ish HP, give or take.

What I'm trying to say is, I've always felt like this is something that is missing from old-school play. I grew up with a very specific sort of mechanical fantasy simulation where lance charges essentially vaporize people, dragons, ogres, castle walls, &c, and most systems I've played since then don't deliver that.

This is, obviously, a flaw to be corrected.

Very Fantasy lance charge, of the type which we are discussing.

Class: Knight-as-Superweapon

You are a member of the Broadly Fantastical European Minor Land-Holding Warrior Nobility. You have been trained since birth in Athletics and Warfare and fed on a diet of blood and milk; but more importantly you are huge, and you will become even huger, and the hoofbeats of your steed shall echo both forward and back into myth and history, and you know how to fight.

Every template of Knight you have gives you +1 to-hit.

Skills: Athletics, Etiquette, and one of 1. Warfare 2. Heraldry 3. Stewardship

Starting Equipment: Three heavy lances (2 slots, 2 hands, 10' reach1d10+STR), a breastplate (4 slots, 4 AC), a destrier (4HD, 50' speed, for warfare and jousting), no food (shouldn't you have a squire for that), one chivalric artifact from the big list at the end.

If you want a list of special horses instead, there is a good one here.

A Knight's Charge, Mounted Combat
B Ride-By Attack
C Split Lance
D Pierce The Heavens

A: Knight's Charge
When you charge at least 10' and attack, damage you deal is further multiplied by 1 plus the number of the following which are true up to a maximum of 1 plus [templates]:

  • You're mounted.
  • You're wielding a lance.
  • You've issued a direct, personal challenge to your target.
  • You've reached template D in this class.

A: Mounted Combat
When damage is dealt to you or your mount, you may split the damage received between it and yourself in any arrangement.

B: Ride-By Attack
When you strike something with your Knight's Charge, you don't have to stop. You can keep going up to you (or your mount's) full movement, and probably turn around to do it again next turn.

C: Split Lance
By shattering your lance as a part of a Knight's Charge, you may reroll your attack roll against adjacent targets in order to distribute attack damage in excess of your original target's HP among them. I envision this as an explosion caused in much the same way a gas-piston combusts fuel by compressing it but you can interpret it however you like.

D: Pierce The Heavens
Your Knight's Charge trails swirling rainbow vortices, becoming charged with BATTLEFIRE and dealing damage to any target (including g_ds and spells) as if it were the most advantageous material or element applicable.
Whenever you would be able to achieve a x5 multiplier with your Knight's Charge, you (and your mount) may charge in any direction you can currently perceive in order to deliver it.
Targets reduced to 0 or fewer HP by your Knight's Charge disintegrate utterly, beyond the ability of any mortal magic to resurrect or make whole.

16th-18th century Hussarite lance charge.

Chivalric Artifacts

  1. Heavy Lance. Need two hands to properly stabilize this bad boy, even from horseback. 10' reach, can't be used against adjacent enemies. 1d10 damage, 2 slots.
  2. Breastplate. Probably includes some shoulder and waist protection, too. You don't carry a shield, so this is what your heraldry goes on. 4 AC, 4 slots.
  3. Destrier. A heavy warhorse of the most expensive and prestigious sort. 4 HD, 50' speed, well-trained in warfare and jousting tournaments, unafraid of cannon or ogre. Buying a new one of these is probably going to run you a cool 50 gp in a silver standard game, and require you to be somewhere with a really nice stable.
  4. Courser. A medium warhorse of the next-most expensive and prestigious sort. 3 HD, 60' speed, well-trained in warfare and hunting, unafraid of rifle or boar. Buying one of these will run you about 25 gp, and require you to be somewhere with a proper stable.
  5. Rouncey. A light war-and-other-purposehorse of respectable quality. 2 HD, 60' speed, well-trained in any purpose you could want it for. A rouncey is something like 10 gp, and the nicest horse at any given farm will probably count.
  6. Mule. Not, technically, a horse, though I guess you can ride it in a pinch. 2 HD, 40' speed, well-trained in labor and fieldwork. Unafraid of heavy loads or dragging a plow, comes with saddlebags filled with 70 onions. I bet you can get one of these for 5 gp in any thorp or hamlet worth the name, sans the onions.
  7. Riding Basilisk. Something like a six-legged Komodo dragon, only bigger and more colorful. The lizardmen of Sem ride these through the forests and plateaus of their kingdom, I think. 4 HD, 40' speed, AC 16, mesmerizing frills about its neck. Buying one of these would be tricky, anywhere else.
  8. Shock Lance. Sacred tool of the Northern Paladins. As heavy lance but can be triggered to project a bolt of lightning out the front for an extra 30' of reach or extra 2d6 damage, once only. Can be recharged in 1 hour with a proper electrical hookup or 8 hours rigged up to a waterwheel.
  9. Hunting Lance. Sacred tool of the Western Paladins. As heavy lance but explodes for an extra 2d6 damage to everyone within 5' of the target (not including you, it's 10' long), DEX half. One use only.
  10. Fire Lance. Sacred tool of the Eastern Paladins. As heavy lance but it's also a decent handgonne, dealing 2d6 damage with a 20' range when used in that fashion. Can't really do both at once since you have to choke up on it to light the fuse.
  11. Sun Lance. Sacred tool of the Southern Paladins. Can be triggered to go off like a flashbang, causing everyone nearby to roll STR or be rendered blind and deaf for 1d6 rounds.
  12. Pocket Lance. Not a sacred tool, just a handy one. As heavy lance but telescopes down to forearm-size, taking up only 1/3 slot when so compressed. Unfolds automatically when you press a button.
  13. Rocket Lance. Another handy tool. As heavy lance but you can light the fuse and then hold on for dear life as it blasts you about 200' in a straight line. This counts as being mounted for your Knight's Charge, but you take 2d6 damage, DEX half at the end of your travel if you hit anything.
  14. Knight Light. A sort of lantern designed to work just fine despite being swung around on the end of a lance or a charging warhorse. Dynamo-powered; doesn't need fuel, just needs to be swung around on the end of a lance or a charging warhorse. 1/3rd slot.
  15. Plastic Tabard and Cape/Poncho Thing. Traditional Knightly battle-garment, worn over the breastplate. Transparent, covers the whole body. Prevents you getting aerosolized dragon/footman/other knight on your clothes when you lance charge the aforementioned. No slots.
  16. Plate Harness. Proper, full-scale armor for tournaments and glorious battle. 8 AC, 8 slots, custom fitted, intricate scrollwork, massive codpiece, hideously expensive.
  17. Superlativesword. A lance won't always fit in the dungeon. This won't either, but it's the thought that counts. Eight feet long, with cruel parrying-spikes and an extended cruciform guard. A massive weapon, 2d10 damage, 4 slots.
  18. Barding. Armor for your horse. Gives it AC 16. Pretty important for keeping it alive. 12 slots if you have to carry it around, effectively none for your horse (horse inventory works on a different scale).
  19. Squire. A youth, aged 1d6+8. Feeds your horses, polishes your breastplate, carries spare lances around. Really quite useful. Would no doubt like to be a Knight themself someday. 10 slots, but you shouldn't have to carry them much.
  20. Something weird. Roll 1d6:
    1. Cursed teaset. Appears full and pleasantly hot at all times. Is completely empty at all times, even if filled. If disposed of, reappears in your bag at dinnertime. 1 slot.
    2. Perfectly reflective gorget. Blinds in sunlight, redirects arrows, bullets, laser beams to random targets, the works. 1-in-6 chance for it to be hit whenever you would be. 1 slot.
    3. Penetrating lance oil. Allows a weapon to hurt g_ds and spells. Works on non-lances too, if you're okay with using it wrong. 10 doses, 1 slot.
    4. Lance quiver. Something like a beeg golf bag. 3 slots, holds like, I don't know, 10 slots worth of heavy lances and superlativeswords.
    5. THINGS USED TO BE BUILT TO LAST. Sort of a poll-chainsaw—a chainsaw lance, if you will. As heavy lance but deals an extra 1d10 exploding damage whenever fueled up, can be refueled with any liquid even though you're not a proper Chainsaw Wizard, and screams like a cat made of knives caught in a garbage disposal. Perhaps it's lucky you don't understand what it says.
    6. Wizard squire. A doofy sort of sorcerer like one in a storybook for children, aged 2d20+60, uncomfortably sleepy and criminally forgetful. Knows Polish Armor, Summon Lance, and Whoops!. Has 1 MD and wears a wizard robe for 1 MD more.
Classic illustration-ish lance charge from a clip art website.

Why Is This Interesting?

I think it's an extension of the theory of a "Fighter as the member of an expeditionary force of specialists, who specializes in Fighting as opposed to Medicine or Dinosaur Psychology". This class is a hyperspecialized version of that idea; a Fighter who is not only capable of Fighting anything they meet, but probably trivializing it, as long as they have their horse with them, and enough room to wield a lance, and at least 20' to maneuver (have to charge at least 10', and the lance is 10' long). They have some ability if not all those things are true, but ultimately what it comes down to is that if your DM lets you line up on someone with your mount, your lance, and 20 clear feet between you they know exactly what they're doing and it oughtn't be that disruptive for you to vaporize them with your lance.

Properly, I suppose that means that their party should be comprised of other hyperspecialist classes. Dinosaur Psychologist indeed. I guess that was what 3.5e did, in the end, with the miles of supplemental books and the involved character builds - though most of it was, as this is, focused around combat. Very specifically, very specific ways to win fights. Hmm.

The Knight-as-Superweapon is a very powerful tool (lance charges) with very specific applications (trolls, drawbridges, fortress walls, other knights, dragons, et cetera). I think it's, paradoxically, probably most interesting in a game where you don't fight all that much.

Another thing I like about it is that it's not reliant on a magic horse or magic lances. Your horse is a real horse, with all the attendant not-wanting-to-go-in-a-dungeon-or-being-able-to-climb-ladders that that entails, and your lances shatter. You need to bring horses and lances around. That's cool, to me.

I also think it implies something very funny about the setting. This is a world that will never invent the tank, probably, because why would you when a guy can sneak up on it with twelve feet of wood and a quick little horse and lance charge it into next Tuesday. Knights-as-Superweapons indeed.

S'also a power fantasy, of course. I dunno, I think that's kind of fun. 

I have a few more lance charge pics that I didn't fit in yet, here they are. As you can see, lance charges have been used throughout history, and will be used throughout the future as well:

American Civil War lance charge.

I know not with what weapons World War II was fought, but World War III will be fought with lance and steed.

Lance charge in the 41st millenium, in the grim darkness of which there is only war.

lance charge. lance charge. lance charge. lance charge is the fastest, it is faster than anything. it is faster than light, it is more than we can comprehend. it is a beam of pure thought directed from my shoulder into your solar plexus at a billion miles a second.
i lance charged someone today and when the smoke cleared we were both 10 years younger. he tried to feint me but before his brain could even send the impulse to the nerves in his body telling him to point over my shoulder, i had lance charged him twice. sometimes i do it so quickly i don't even know it happened, i am just instantly surrounded by mountains of bodies, shields splintered and chests crushed like old fruit. 

i have tested this, i have tested it in my cum fort. it is hopeless. i send this message from the distant future, lance charges have trapped me in the time and space i do not recognize. send help. lance charge a trauma kit and it may end up near my epoch.